Through the eyes of Greg Harold (Harry) – Vineyard Manager

The year was 1995 and the board of Penfolds (former vineyard administrators), had agreed to expand their vineyards by planting an additional 40ha of vines on the western side of the property. By itself, the planting of a new vineyard was a fairly straightforward task to implement. However, this was a period in which there was no mains water in close proximity, and vines are known to be thirsty little things. Water was very much needed – and lots of it! If the project was to go ahead, a substantial amount of groundwater needed to be discovered first and foremost.

To embark on this quest for water, some individuals with special talents were required; answering the call of duty were local water diviners Mark Jaeschke and Judy Hanlin. As Mark and Judy set foot onto the proposed vineyard site, they produced the equipment needed for the search of this precious natural resource – scientific apparatus? Certainly not! Water divining is an art form that involves far more mystical tools, which is why on this day our heroes scoured the land with divining rods, sticks and even a handful of salt.*

As the hours passed, a combination of sticks, salt and intuition led our explorers to select a handful of locations that may have been the key to transforming the site into an oasis for grape vines.

It was time to unleash the Drilling Truck.

With an industrious growl, the drill began to tunnel deep into the earth’s surface, taking with it the hopes of everyone involved. It should be said at this point that the process described here does in fact cost a pretty penny – a princely sum of $10,000 per hole in fact!  After TWELVE holes were drilled without success, it became all too apparent that the drilling truck was not only boring into the paddock, but also the company’s bank balance! With the rising number of holes across the landscape, the site began to resemble a rugged golf course.**  It was at this point in the process that State Vineyards Operations Manager Andrew Pike was fed up with turning the property into a geological Swiss cheese and put his foot down:

“That’s it Harry! No more!”

It was not a subtle point. The drilling contractors complied and began to  pack up their equipment – it was not looking good for this project, and certainly not looking good for the validity of water divining! On a whim, I snatched up a divining rod decided to go for a walk, heading south of the unsuccessful drilling attempts. “Maybe there is something to the notion that divining has no scientific basis”, I thought. And that’s when it happened. The divining rod in my hand began to stir, like an island castaway signalling to a ship, the rod vigorously gestured with a desperate enthusiasm to a location between my feet. I immediately marked the spot and summoned the  drill operator to get a second opinion. “Looks promising to me!” he said.

Hmmm…perhaps the prospect of yet another $10,000 is what looks promising to him, I mused.

The onus was then on me to convince Andrew to make one last attempt at this spot, “Leave it with me…” was the response. Moments later the phone rang, “OK, this will be hole number 13, absolutely no more after this.” The drilling contractors moved into position and began to drill – we held our collective breath. JACKPOT!!! It was the moment everyone had been waiting for – water of excellent quality surged from below – at a rate of 8,000 gallons an hour!

There certainly are exceptions to the consideration of the number 13 being unlucky. The site now has a flourishing vineyard and the bore hole has been named in my honour, “Harry’s Bore”.

We owe it all to being in the right place with a twitchy rod!

* I have since been informed by a divining expert that a handful of salt can apparently help the diviner to determine the level of groundwater salinity.

** A game of golf on THIS course would be incredibly challenging – with several holes reaching a depth of 150m, one would not be retrieving their golf ball in a hurry after a successful putt!

See also: Nigel’s Tree Lot and The Tale of Lightning Lane